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Alternative Ways of Learning: Empower Your People To Excel by Offering Training That Meets Their Needs

All too often, training programs only meet the needs of some trainees — specifically, those who learn like the person putting together the program. Trainees who learn best in other ways are left in the dust; you may even hear them complaining about how training wastes their time. 

Danielle DavisRoe

Implementing an effective training program not only meets the needs of everyone in your organization, but it also excites your people and makes them eager to learn more.

People learn in different ways: some need visuals, others prefer listening. Some prefer to read and write, and others need hands-on training. The VARK model divides learners into four categories:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading/writing
  • Kinesthetic

While most people learn best by one of these methods, everyone can learn with the other techniques — the training just isn’t as effective for them. Beyond the VARK model, learners can also be separated into social and solitary learners. Chances are your organization employs all types and configurations of learners.


Developing a training program that has something for everyone can be challenging when there are so many types of learners working together. The most effective training considers the preferences of all learners and offers something for everyone. While a more traditional approach focuses on the trainers’ perception of the best way to provide information, more effective methods acknowledge the role that learners play in their own training and how their experiences and learning styles shape the outcome.


The most effective training is in the context of how the learners will apply the information in their jobs. This allows learners to draw connections between their experiences and the training. Examples should be closely aligned with the work your learners do every day. Better yet, pull examples directly from learners’ recently completed work.

Pacing and Depth

Perfect pacesetting is impossible when training a large group of people. Different learners need to know different things and want to move through the material at different rates. Whenever possible, break people into smaller groups based on their objectives for the training and their learning styles.

Attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants frequently need training at very different levels. They typically have disparate duties and expectations entering training. When the training involves an advanced technical skill usually performed by a legal assistant, an attorney’s goal may be to understand what is possible rather than to master the skill. On the other hand, the legal assistant responsible for doing the work needs to perfect the technique. In this example, trying to train the attorneys and legal assistants together will result in frustration for everyone.


Training programs that provide a variety of content are best suited to reach learners of all types. Social learners do best in a group setting — whether that is in a physical classroom such as your conference room, a virtual classroom such as an interactive webinar, or on an e-learning platform with social features. Solitary learners do best with one-on-one training, self-guided e-learning and the option to ask questions one-on-one after training classes.


Training classes, whether they are taught in your conference room or via webinar, must include content for all types of learners. Visual learners need visual aids, either PowerPoint presentations with graphic elements or demonstrations. Auditory learners need to hear the material — don’t just show but tell. Describe what is being taught. Reading/writing learners need time to take notes during the class; they need a slower pace than visual and auditory learners. Kinesthetic learners need to follow along with exercises whenever possible. Like reading/writing learners, they also need a slower pace.

When providing technical training, demonstrating the technique is critical for almost all learners. Visual learners want to see you do it; auditory learners want to hear you describe the steps as you do it; reading/writing learners want to take notes as you do it; kinesthetic learners want to do it themselves as you do it. Provide exercises in the context of the learners’ job. Are you teaching how to build a table of contents in Word? Use a legal document like ones your learners frequently prepare.


Training doesn’t just happen in class. It occurs after class with takeaway materials, on the job as learners put the teachings into practice and on-demand as new tasks create an interest for learning new things. Providing content to enable learners to succeed after class and on-demand rounds out any training program.

In-depth, full-featured manuals are invaluable reference guides when they’re organized well and easy to navigate. Include screenshots, images and graphs for visual learners. Written step-by-step instructions guide reading/writing and kinesthetic learners. Beyond technical instructions, include the big-picture context and reasoning behind the teachings. Manuals are easiest to use when provided as text-searchable documents with clickable tables of contents.

Many learners do best with easy-to-follow reference guides. Easy reference guides contain the bare minimum steps to accomplish a task and annotated screenshots every step along the way. They don’t have to worry about getting lost in the process when they can visually confirm that they are in the right place.

Training videos provide on-demand and solitary training. Short, task-specific videos are perfect for helping learners when they get stuck in the moment. The most effective just-in-time training is 2-10 minutes long. More complicated tasks might take longer, but most can be taught in a short video. Use a video player that allows learners to select the playback speed to give them control over the pace so they can speed it up or slow it down to meet their needs.

Longer training videos provide more in-depth information when learning something new. More detailed than quick task-based training, these allow new hires or learners who missed class to catch up to their peers. Don’t forget to provide any hands-on exercises used during class to those watching the video.


Your best bet for putting this all together is a comprehensive learning management system, commonly referred to as an LMS. The best LMS will include integration with webinars, allowing learners to register for and attend training webinars directly from the system.

Hands-on exercises, manuals and easy reference guides can be accessed directly from the LMS. Legal management professionals can easily assign courses to learners as needed and upload a variety of forms of content. Social features, such as discussion boards, enable learners to interact with one another and trainers, meeting the needs of social learners. Furthermore, learners can easily locate and watch training videos on-demand.


ALA’s e-learning courses are self-paced so learners to consume information at a pace that suits them. Check out our catalog of courses at